In the South, you don’t go grocery shopping; you go “tradin’.”
And those four-wheeled caged contraptions you push up and down the aisles to transport your goods out to the car are not shopping carts, they’re called “buggies.”
I am sure those terms date back to a time when you did barter and trade for food stuffs, and carried them off in horse and wagon.
And did you know the average shopping cart weighs 70 pounds, and some sources say more than 2 million are stolen from store parking lots every year? Useless, Cliff Clavinesque points for sure, but I was thinking recently about my first trip to the grocery store after James had died. You would not think such a mundane chore would turn sinister and heart wrenching, but it had.
James loved to shop. It did not matter if it was for yogurt and chicken salad or washers and batteries; he simply loved to purchase things. (Yes, this did become problematic at times, given our middle class budget.)
But that first trip post-James. Oh, it was hard. We generally went grocery shopping together, since he liked it so much. I would grow impatient as he insisted on going down almost every aisle, even though we generally shopped around the perimeter – meats, vegetables, and dairy. He could stand in front of the yogurts for what seemed to be hours, making his selections for the week so very thoughtfully (blueberry? cherry? Chobani™ or Noosa©?). It was maddening.
But back to that first trip. What struck me as I walked into the store was the music. Songs take on a different meaning after you go through a major heartache- we all know it’s true. “First Time Ever I saw Your Face,” by Roberta Flack was playing. I had always associated that song with my friend Pam, who sang it to her husband on their wedding day decades before. But as I said the meaning of things change. It was all I could do to keep from throwing myself onto a pile of cantaloupes and wailing. (Major clean-up in aisle one.)
Out of habit I approached the deli counter but then remembered he was the one who ate the fruit & nut chicken salad, not me. I practically jogged past the yogurts, my heart in my throat. They truly seemed to mock me.
And when I rounded down the frozen food isle, starting to feel blessedly numb as an Eggo waffle, I spied an elderly woman coming toward me in the opposite direction. She had “the ones,” in her cart. One potato, one small container of cottage cheese, one of this, one of that. It was like I’d been slapped up the side of my head by a rogue wave of salt water.
“That’s me now,” I wept into the phone later to Pam, whom I had called for consolation. “I’m the old widow woman who only buys one of everything!”
Of course, it has gotten better. I can grocery shop now without turning it into a Norma Desmond production. I have learned how to adjust and feed the body. I just have to learn how to adjust and feed the soul.